Why Be Frugal?

DSC_0687This might seem an odd question from the Frugal Goddess, but it is worth asking. Being frugal means more effort and often deferred gratification. There has to be a pay-off or nobody would do it willingly.

There are really three groups of frugalistas. The forcibly frugal are too poor don’t have a choice. This group  grew much larger in the USA during the crash of 2008 and is still growing. Sadly, the rest of the world has always had a large population in this group. For the forcibly frugal, there is no need to ask why. How is the question. How to feed a family, how to obtain shelter, how to survive.

The middle class frugalista understands the concept of deferred gratification. There are many, even in this over-heated consumer environment, that are willing to do the work to achieve a dream. This group understands the relationship between prudence and success. To be middle class is an exercise in compromise. A person with a moderate income can make choices, and satisfy some desires, but not all. For this group, a consistent frugal lifestyle means home-ownership, college for the kids, and the opportunity to do a few really amazing things like travel to the world. If this type were to go on impulse, all the surplus would be frittered away on trips to the mall, and they would have the debt-load of the average American family. For these frugalistas, frugality really does make their dreams come true.

But it does something more as well. It creates a deep sense of peace. It is well known that money problems are one of the biggest sources of stress in our culture. And that money fights are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Frugal people avoid all of that. And if the parents are frugal it sets a very good example for the whole family.

Though it may seem that we are through, there is actually one more type. The members of the voluntary simplicity movement tend to be very well off. Maybe even rich enough that waste is a mere inconvenience, not a life-threatening disaster. But this group is interested in a green life-style, and in a sustainable solution to the “human” problem. This involves avoiding waste and conscious values-based spending. That is the very definition of frugality. This group has a very different problem from the first two groups. The first group has no problem staying frugal, it is staying alive that concerns them. The second group may have temptations, but a commitment to a greater reward will keep them on track. But, for the voluntary frugalista, it is commitment to an idea of what is right that drives the frugal lifestyle. For them, the answer to the question “why be frugal” is an intellectual one. But, even so, there are rewards other than virtue. The voluntary frugalista gets the benefit of self-knowledge and clarity. This translates to more time doing the things that are truly rewarding, and less time spinning in circles.

Whatever your current financial situation, a frugal lifestyle is worth it.

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First Time Gardener-A Follow Up

DSC_0637You might have noticed that my series on being a first time gardener just trailed off. That is because the garden just trailed off…

As you can see from the photo, all I got was a few tiny squash, 3 mini zucchinis, and a handful of not ready for prime time tomatoes.The squash are sitting near a grapefruit for comparison.

But–I am not easy to discourage. This year I have not finished planting, but already have a DSC_0641row of very healthy string beans, three thriving tomato plants, and a large strawberry patch. I will be adding basil, cucumbers, and chilis. Also several types of squash, and I expect the squash to act like squash this year, so I can scare my neighbors and friends.

We figured out that the soil was not rich enough, and the area was too crowded. Both problems have been fixed. So stay tuned for First Time Gardener–the Sequel!

The Frugal Goddess Goes LIVE with a Workshop on Food Waste!

Careful Planning is the Key!

The Frugal Goddess will give her first live workshop—Stop Food Waste Now with the fugal Goddess, in Santa Rosa CA on October 15, 2012.

The workshop will cover how we make bad choices that lead to food waste, how to plan a week’s meals that will really be eaten without waste, how to store what you buy so it lasts, and how to handle special problems with the flow of food through your household and your life.

If you regularly dump your money into the waste bin through wasted food, if you have great intentions on shopping day that lead to nothing but expensive compost, if you have “science experiments in you vegetable bin instead of edible veggies, this might be for you!

The first Frugal Goddess book on the same subject is in the works. There will be an announcement on this blog when it comes out.

If you live in the bay area please go to this link for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/258266 and here is a link to the original post that started the whole project: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/10/food-waste-why-we-do-it-and-how-we-can-stop/

The Frugal Bride—Are You Getting Married? Save Money and Still Have a Great Wedding!

A Lovely Wedding Can Be Frugal!

A wedding is one of the biggest events most of us will ever be involved in. It is also one of the most emotional. And of course we want our guests to have a wonderful time, and we want to create happy memories that will last forever. But—we may not have enough money to go around. What is the frugal bride to do?

When I got married in 2000 I only spent $1200 dollars. I recycled the rings from a pawn shop (after we smudged them with sage, that is.) I used a dress that I had bought awhile before but never worn, a frothy shell pink number with lots of lace. We got married in the empty field next door. We served homemade food to our guests, and my friend who is a baker made the cake. The minister cost $250, so we had to pay that. The only thing I splurged on was the flowers—the bouquet and one big beautiful arrangement.

The first thing you need to do to plan a frugal wedding is break down all the components. Venue, food, drinks, music, flowers, other decorations, officiant, wedding attire, rings, and whatever else you want to include. Then think each element through, with one question in mind—“How can I get this taken care of for little or no money?”

Do you have a dress in the family that would suit you? Wearing a family heirloom at your wedding could be very charming. Does someone you know have a lovely cutting garden? Maybe they would donate the flowers. Know a baker? Perhaps they would do as my friend did and make you a pretty wedding cake. Is someone in your family a remarkable cook? Let them run the lunch or dinner plans. Do you belong to a church, temple, or other congregation? Many times the group will provide the space for the wedding and the minister or rabbi will officiate free of charge for members. Why not ask?

Go through the list and dig up every source of help you can. When you have run out of free or discounted helpers it is time to take stock of the things you must pay for. This is one of the reasons planning ahead is so important. You can’t get good deals at the last minute unless you are very lucky, and who wants to rely on luck at a time like this?

Because it is your wedding, and that is a most important occasion, it is totally with-in the frugal plan to splurge on one or two elements. The only requirement is that you give due consideration to every detail before you open your wallet. It may be the wine or the dress or the rings. Whatever it is, think it through carefully, spend what you need joyously and without regret, and whatever else—enjoy your day!

 

Here are a few resources:

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Married-While-Spending-Little/dp/1453821473/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348855965&sr=1-3&keywords=Getting+Married+on+a+budget

 

http://www.amazon.com/Money-Still-Fabulous-Wedding-ebook/dp/B005PYVUEG/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348856029&sr=1-4&keywords=Getting+Married+on+a+budget

http://www.projectwedding.com/wedding-ideas/diy-wedding

 

Retire in Style Even if You are Broke!

 

The other day I saw a startling and scary statistic. Over 60% of Americans, when asked how much money it would take for them to feel absolutely comfortable at retirement, quote a figure of 4 million dollars. Yet the average amount of actual retirement savings is a mere sixty thousand. This is a huge disconnect. If what you actually have at retirement age is 60K, either you are going to be living on a tiny social security check, or you will not be retiring at all, but rather continuing to work.

This situation is complicated by those that were “forcibly retired” in the crash of 2008. If you are over sixty and lost your job in the crash, and you have not been able to get another job, it would not be stretching the truth to say you are “retired”. This is a frightening and unfair thing, but there it is. So what do you do?

First of all, if your unemployment has run out and you are approaching 62, go get that social security check. It may not be much but it beats the alternative.

Then, whether you retired by choice or by force, try these tips:

  1. If you are going to take up a hobby, consider one that has side benefits, such as vegetable gardening, sewing, computer repair, or carpentry. These are all useful skills that can save you money, but they can also enrich you in other ways
  2. Cook your own meals. Nothing else has such an immediate beneficial effect on your wallet, your health, and your quality of life.
  3. Cut your housing expense by getting a housemate. Studies show that living with another person will help you live longer and healthier than living alone. Even if you are married having a housemate can be helpful in other ways than just cutting your living expenses. And if your home is in danger of being lost, using it to create income could save it.
  4. Having deep friendships is more important to quality of life than money. Stay in close touch and find free or inexpensive activities to enjoy together. Things like picnics and movie night.
  5. If you have a little capital, start a small business. Just make sure it is rock solid. Buying an already successful business and changing nothing may be just the ticket. Things like coffee carts and vending machines are possible choices. The idea is not to take a risk but rather to carry on with a sure thing.
  6. If you are a good salesperson and very social, try a network marketing business. Many of them are require a very minimal starting investment. Just make sure you really love the product. These businesses are all based on word of mouth, and your integrity is important. Also, really succeeding is hard work, but if you have the right personality and the right product you can supplement your fixed income nicely.

Then there are a few techniques that involve the underground economy, so I am not recommending them but merely reporting what others have done to create a better quality of life in retirement. These techniques are barter and creating an all cash business. Remember those useful hobbies mentioned above? Can you trade your skills in these things for things you want and need? Can you sell your skills for cash? If so, that is how you get those small luxuries that are necessary for a rich and happy life. You could advertise with flyers on bulletin boards or by word of mouth through your circle of acquaintances, and get paid cash.  There are retirees that enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would otherwise by using their talents and skills to advantage. Some of them are even having fun.

If you are getting near to retirement and are worried about having enough, look into some or all of these ideas, and above all, enjoy this phase of your life. You worked hard and you deserve an abundant life!

A First-timer’s Garden—Post 2: Everything Growing but I am Not Done Planting Yet

The First Squash Blossom of Summer

This seems so simple. It makes me wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner. It also makes me worry if I am doing something wrong. Are the plants too close together? Will the tall beans block the sun for the shorter melons and cucumbers?

I thought I got at least one zucchini from the plant sale but both of the squash from there are just marked “summer squash”. Then I tried to get someone else to get me a zucchini when they were at the nursery and they came back with YELLOW zucchini. Of course we planted it, but I still want a GREEN one. We are going to be in trouble this August, I can tell. I have known folks who have grown more than one zucchini. They haunt their friends with giant “gifts”, in the end resorting to dropping them on doorsteps after dark and then running…

We started with three barrels and a box, plus a yard and a half of dirt. We are up to ten barrels and counting, plus about four yards of dirt. And I am not done yet. I still need some kitchen herbs, and maybe some other stuff. Does gardening qualify as a process addiction like gambling or computer solitaire? We shall see.

How Much is Enough? Six Tips for Knowing when to Stop

If You Don't Know what you Want You'll Never Have Enough

The question “how much is enough?” is at the very heart of a frugal life richly lived. It is the backbone of frugal abundance. We live in a culture that resists the concept of enough. For the inhabitants of the “developed world”, the answer we must give is that no amount is enough. The economy we have created depends on MORE, and just enough is considered an ill.

But sensible people trying to live a good and pleasant life know that this is hog wash. Too much clutter in our material possessions or our time leads to a frenzied life where we don’t fully use or enjoy the things we have. So what is the cure? Try these six simple tips to get back to a state of happy balance:

  1. Before you bring in ANYTHING new, look at what you already have and ask yourself what the purpose is. Do you already have something that will accomplish whatever it is you are trying to do? For example, if you want to make crepes, do you really need to buy a special pan? Or would the cast iron pan you have work just as well. This also applies to time—before you add something to your schedule STOP and ask yourself why.
  2. Do you know the real cost of the things you want to acquire? Don’t forget to add in the cost of maintenance, repair, and auxiliary doo dads that you will need to make it work. When it comes to your time, remember to include travel and preparation time. These are things you need to know before committing yourself. If you don’t think it through you may bite off more than you can chew and end up with TOO MUCH.
  3. Where are you going to put the new thing? If it doesn’t fit in your house it won’t fit in your life. The same goes for new activities. When are you going to do the new activity, including prep, practice, and travel if applicable? Things without places create clutter and eventually misery.
  4. How does the new thing fit into your value system? If you don’t know, don’t buy it till you find out. You only have so much time, money, and physical space. If you let in a bunch of stuff that does not serve your value system, it just becomes a distraction. It also drives out the things that are in harmony with your values, and therefore robs your life of meaning to one extent or another. For example, if your values include bonding with your loved ones with a real sit down dinner, adding a lot of early evening activities is actually a form of clutter and will soon become TOO MUCH.
  5. Have a plan for buying things and committing your time. If you put the big pieces in first, such as travel or buying a house then the smaller decisions become easier. If you know that forgoing a new outfit will get you closer to a trip you want to take it removes some of the sting of saying no to yourself. This also works when dealing with family members. If you all agree that going camping is important it will help when you have to nix the new sneakers. Well, maybe not every time, but it will certainly help.
  6. Now apply these guidelines to what you already have. Do you need to purge anything? Cancel anything? Get rid of any time commitments, memberships, or subscriptions? Does all that you have serve you and your values? Be honest, and then start making a pile for charity. And don’t be too quick to fill up the spaces that get opened up. Open space and breathing room are essential to a happy life and a sign that you have just the right amount.

Try these six tips to create a life that is the right size for you. Not all of them will be easy, but the results will be worth it.

For more on this topic check out these links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/23/frugality-in-a-consumption-crazed-society/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/08/30/false-economy/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/11/01/time-and-money/

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